Commitment to Net Neutrality Confirmed by Obama

By Joe Rizzo October 13, 2014

The principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet in an equal way is referred to as net neutrality, sometimes also referred to as network neutrality, or Internet neutrality. This means neither discriminating nor charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment and modes of communication. The term was coined by Columbia media law professor Tim Wu in 2003.

At the beginning of August, Tom Wheeler, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, stated his concerns, in what is considered to be a strongly-worded letter that he was not happy about Verizon’s plan to start slowing down customers on unlimited data plans beginning this month. This type of slowdown is referred to as “throttling”. From all accounts, Wheeler actually appears to be quite incensed about it as he said that he was “deeply troubled” by the news.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, showed how strongly she feels about it when back in September she asked that the FCC to use Title II of the Communications Act to reclassify broadband as a utility. We have seen throughout this year that a lot of politicians, although not as vocal as her, are all in agreement with Pelosi’s way of thinking.

Unfortunately, part of this began earlier this year when Wheeler proposed new rules that referred to Open Internet. At the time, consumer advocacy groups criticized the rules for creating fast and slow lanes on the web. The proposed rules would ban Internet Service Providers from blocking or slowing down users' access to websites but allow them to charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of traffic to users.

The latest politician to make his position on net neutrality known is none other than President Obama. Last week the President stated that he is “Unequivocally committed to net Neutrality.” On October 9, 2014 while he was addressing a group of company startup founders in California, he said that he was opposed to the idea of paid prioritization. This is the idea that higher payments can be made by broadband users for exclusive access to customers on the Web. Obama added, "It's what has unleashed the power of the Internet and we don't want to lose that or clog up the pipes."

Obama acknowledged that the FCC’s proposed rules have raised many concerns among advocates of net neutrality. He made it clear that the FCC was independent but also said that Wheeler was aware of his views. Obama said, "My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can't, now that he's there, I can't just call him up and tell him exactly what to do." This comes on the heels of the FCC receiving close to four million comments since the Open Internet proposal. I believe this sets an FCC record.

As of now, this is still a proposal from the FCC and not a new rule. However, in closing, Obama stated "But what I've been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we're not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine." 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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